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Zoom suspended US user for Tiananmen Square commemoration; Marco Rubio questions tech company's ties with China

Zoom temporarily shut down an account based in the U.S. that didn't violate any U.S. laws.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Zoom suspended a U.S.-based user after he hosted an event commemorating the anniversary of 1989's Tiananmen Square Massacre. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has questions about the videoconferencing tech company's relationship with China.

Zhou Fengsuo, the founder of the U.S. nonprofit Humanitarian China and a former student leader of the Tiananmen protests, hosted an event on Zoom remembering the 31st anniversary of China's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The conference was attended by more than 250 people, and over 4,000 people streamed it online, including some in China, according to Zhou.

"And on June 3, a separate Tiananmen commemoration was severed after the Zoom account that hosted it was deactivated midstream," the Washington Post reported. "The live event that began with 200 participants suffered two disruptions that 'practically destroyed it,' said one of the organizers, former Tiananmen student protest leader Wang Dan, who is based in Washington."

Fengsuo, who lives in Hayward, California, said his account was suspended on June 7. He accused Zoom of being complicit in Beijing's censorship since the Tiananmen Square Massacre is highly censored in China.

"It seems possible Zoom acted on pressure from the CCP to shut down our account," Humanitarian China said in a statement. "If so, Zoom is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government."

Zoom admitted that it had shut down the account, but had since reinstated it. Zoom provided a statement to Engadget:

"Like any global company, Zoom must comply with laws in the countries where we operate. We strive to limit actions taken to those necessary to comply with local law. Our platform is increasingly supporting complex, cross-border conversations, for which the compliance with the laws of multiple countries is very difficult. We regret that a few recent meetings with participants both inside and outside of China were negatively impacted and important conversations were disrupted. It is not in Zoom's power to change the laws of governments opposed to free speech. However, Zoom is committed to modifying its processes to further protect its users from those who wish to stifle their communications. For example, for situations where local authorities block communications for participants within their borders, Zoom is developing additional capabilities that protect these conversations for participants outside of those borders."

Zoom, which had 300 million daily users as of April, did not explain why the U.S.-based organization was suspended despite not violating any U.S. laws.

"We still want to know why our account was closed," Fengsuo wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted some questions to Zoom.

"A few ?? for ⁦⁦@zoom_us⁩ 1.What data do you routinely share with #China? 2.Do you have a CCP branch in your company? 3.Which "local laws" are you complying with? 4.How many other accounts/events affected?"


Former national security adviser John Bolton also questioned the close ties between Zoom and the Chinese government.

"It's troubling to see @zoom_us caving to the demands of communist China," Bolton wrote on Twitter. "Zoom disabled accounts of Chinese dissidents after using Zoom to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre. We should be suspicious of any company so willing to do China's bidding."

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